Grower Spotlight: Chuck Coley (Vienna, Georgia)

April 1, 2009

Often times you’re told to play the hand you’re dealt, and after the 2008 farm bill was signed into law, Chuck Coley had planned to do just that.

A cotton and peanut grower in west Georgia, Coley is no stranger to the notion that in this business, you need to adapt.

As an active member of the cotton community, he and others spent two years working with Congress on designing a farm safety net that would assist growers but would still reduce taxpayer cost to meet the strict budget limits set for the 2008 farm bill.

“We played as a team, we made reforms, we slashed spending, and we came to the table with a good plan,” Coley said. “Farmers took the brunt of the farm bill budget cuts, but they stepped up to the plate to help lawmakers come up under the budget baseline.”

After the bill became law, Coley was ready to move on and get back to business with his wife, son, and three farmhands who help run his 1,500-acre farm.

But before he even broke ground and began planning this year’s crop, there was already talk of changing the rules.

The USDA was squabbling with Congress about how to implement the farm bill. Then in February, President Obama released a budget proposal that would decimate the recently passed farm safety net with even more budget cuts.

“Sometimes it feels like farmers have a target on our backs—everyone wants to shoot at us.” Coley laughed.

In reality, it’s not a laughing matter. All of the effort Coley and others had put into the farm bill, intricacies necessary for the cotton industry to survive, are now in jeopardy of being eliminated.

And, with 80% of cotton being exported, producers are in limbo about whether or not they will be able to compete on the global market.

send a letter to Congress opposing the proposed budget cuts.

“The bottom line is that we want Congress to honor the 2008 farm bill and implement it fairly, and that means not reopening the farm bill,” he explained.

Coley was gratified to see several Senators and Congressmen send similar letters (link to Senate letter)(link to House letter) in opposition to any further budget cuts on the backs of farmers.

“This farm has been in my family for more than a century. It means a lot to me and I’m not willing to go down quietly.”